Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Summer to You!

There are only seven days of school until summer vacation.  Only seven days of school until pool days, beach days, family hikes, crafting days, movie days and camping in the yard.  Only seven days until I am able to relax and enjoy new adventures with my children all day, every day.  
Summer is full of opportunities for us to grow as the flowers do.  The days are brighter longer, leaving more time for the exploration and enjoyment of God’s gifts that surround us.  The air is warmer, leaving more opportunity to visit family and friends, growing those relationships in person.  The fruits and vegetables are in full ripeness, allowing our health to grow as we fill our bodies with the food as God intended it to be consumed.  Each season has its beauty and glory and for everything there is a season, but for now I am ready to enjoy the summer days ahead.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Greek Quinoa Salad

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. - (Psalm 118:24)

Greek Quinoa Salad


1 Can Garbanzo Beans (Drained and Rinsed)
1 Can Black Olives
1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes
6oz of Feta Cheese (crumbled)
3 Handfuls of Baby Spinach (pictured to the right)
3 C Cooked and Cooled Quinoa
Greek Dressing

Slice olives and tomatoes lengthwise and place in large bowl.  Add drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, feta cheese, spinach and quinoa.  Coat all ingredients with desired amount of Greek dressing.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gluten Free Pasta Salad

This week I had a lovely visit from my friend Krista and her two fun loving little boys.  Krista and I have been friends for over 20 years and each and every time we visit it is as if no time has passed.  Being one of the biggest influences on the beginning of my walk with Christ, Krista will forever hold a special place in my heart.  Her thoughtful nature and warm smile are true testaments to the grace of God and His Love working in her life.  I am very thankful to the Lord for the gift of Krista in my life.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.  (Proverbs 17:17)

Now, to start the picnic season off right.....

Gluten Free Pasta Salad

Gluten Free Spiral Veggie Pasta (8oz)
½ Red Pepper
½ Green Pepper
1 C. Cauliflower
½ Red Onion
1 Cup Shredded Carrots 
1 ½ C. Cheddar Cheese (Shredded)
¾ C. Diced Pepperoni
Gluten Free Italian Dressing

Cook pasta per package directions.  Dice peppers, cauliflower, onion and pepperoni.  Add all ingredients and coat with dressing.  All measurements are approximate because the wonderful thing about pasta salad is that you can adjust it so easily to your taste or mood.

Beautiful Flowers from a beautiful friend.  Thank you Krista!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sweet and Sassy

Recently Abby and Emily attended a “Sweet and Sassy” birthday party.  As the girls enter the shop, they are greeted by party attendants that direct them to a room filled with glittery gowns, scarves, shirts and other clothing.  They are then told they can choose anything, ANYTHING, they would like to wear from the rooms and to change into that outfit.  After the girls complete their outfit selection, each girl is given a mini manicure, an up do and full makeup complete with a glitter star and heart stamp on their cheek.  The girls are made to look and feel glamorous.  Following the mini makeover, they are shuffled lovingly to the stage to enjoy a dance party with blaring music of their liking.  They sing, they dance and they laugh together for several songs as the party attendants teach them some dance moves.  Freelance dancing is also enjoyed.  The last part of the party is a fashion show complete with an announcer sharing the girl’s favorite movie, color, celebrity and career goals.  The entire shops sings happy birthday to the birthday girl, photos are snapped and then cake is enjoyed.

During the dance party portion, I heard a song play that truthfully brought moisture to my eyes.  No official tears, but close.  The song itself is not moving, but rather in the context of the girls dancing and singing in their glammed up gear.  The song is Who Says by Selena Gomez (I know I am a Mom because I know who she is) and the line before and the chorus go like this:

I'm no beauty queen, I'm just beautiful me
You got every right to a beautiful life, come on

Who says, who says you're not perfect
Who says you're not worth it
Who says you're the only one that's hurting
Trust me that's the price of beauty
Who says you're not pretty
Who says you're not beautiful, who says?

Now imagine a group of 8-10 year old girls blasting this on the top of their lungs.  Don’t tell me that wouldn’t move you just a little bit.  

God has made us all beautiful with our own talents and gift.  We are all beautiful by His grace and with the joy He has given us. God makes no ugly things.  Even the hairy spider that crawls on my basement floor is not ugly and the fact that he kills the mosquitoes in the summer is VERY beautiful to me.  I am still working on the beauty of a mosquito, but I am sure it is there to someone, somewhere.  So who would dare tell my girls that they are not worth it, pretty or beautiful?  Who could even tell any girl that?  There is nothing more beautiful than a girl who feels loved like the princess she is and was created to be.  There is nothing more wonderful then the confidence of a young girl who knows she is loved for who she is, no matter what trials and tribulations come here way.  There is nothing more amazing then the contentment of any child that feels the security of the love meant for them. 

It doesn’t matter who says you’re not worth it, pretty, or beautiful.  Tell them to take it up with God, see how far they get on that one.

Having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:11)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

  • 4 Tomatillos
  • ½ Green Pepper
  • 2 Jalapeno Peppers
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 2 Tb Fresh Lime Juice
  • Cilantro
  • Salt

  1. Remove husk from tomatillos, rinse and cut in half.  Place halved tomatillos, peppers and garlic on a cook sheet and broil for about 5-7 minutes until slightly charred.
  2. Remove from cookie sheet and place all ingredients into a food processor and puree through. 
  3. Add salt to taste.
  4. Place in refrigerator to cool.
  5. Once cool, enjoy with tortilla chips or your favorite taco recipe.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. - Psalm 118:24

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bob and Laura - BFF

Graduate on Friday May 16th 1998
Get Married on Saturday May 17th 1998

Yesterday, Bob and I celebrated 14 wonderful years of marriage.  I am being completely honest in my use of the word wonderful.   Of course we disagree and enjoy a night away from each other from time to time, but he truly is my best friend and I cannot imagine my life without him.  I have had some amazing role models in my life for relationships, my Grandparents (married 65 years and counting), my Aunt Maria and Uncle Jay and Bob’s Parents.  However, the most important thing that holds Bob and I together is our love of Christ.  The purest and best fruit from the harvest is the sweetest and the most costly.  Nothing sweeter then the love of Christ, but the cost has already been paid.

  Fourteen memories, just because:

  1. The first time I saw Bob he was complaining to a teacher about his grade and I thought, “What a geek!”  But then a voice in my head said, that is the kind of guy you should marry someday.  I laughed that thought away and went back to chatting with my friends.
  2. After Bob and I started “going out” (this was high school after all) he brought a rose to my locker and said “This bud is for you.”  I laughed so hard and was not sure this unsmooth guy was for me.
  3. On one of our first dinner dates, we went to Applebee’s and I ordered iced tea.  Bob commented, “I don’t really like iced tea.  It is just tea, but iced.”  Yup, he was winning me over one honest and unpolished comment at a time.
  4. The Christmas of my freshman year of college, Bob proposed to me and I said yes.  We promised our parents that we would wait until we graduated from college to wed.  Bob graduated from Penn State College of Engineering on May 16th, 1998 and we were married on May 17th, 1998.  Why wait any longer?
  5. I never saw such pride, joy and fear on one man’s face as the day that Alex was brought into this world when were the ripe ages of 22 and 24.  I knew he would be a wonderful father and he still is to all three of our amazing children.
  6. Bob has graciously opened the doors of his home to many of my family members, never asking for anything in return.  Sure I invite them to live with us, but he could say “no”, right? 
  7. Some of my favorite memories are just chilling on the beach with the family in content silence. 
  8. Without Bob, I may have never learned the fine art of playing SPUD or quoits.
  9. When we were in high school, we got in trouble for kissing in the hallway.  Luckily my Dad was the principal of the middle school and the high school principal was a friend of the family so we were just sent on our way.
  10. Before we turned 21, we traveled with Bob’s family to Atlantic City and while walking through a casino to the boardwalk, I thought it would be cute to play one quarter in a slot machine.  I was carded on the spot and Bob ran away.  His family didn’t and I knew that any family that would stand up for Bob’s girlfriend for Bob was a family worth being a part of.
  11. When we were in college, we stopped at a Kmart and were looking at the exercise equipment.  Bob got on a “Gazelle” type machine and thought it was funny that both of the legs swung the same way.  He swung and laughed as I pleaded for him to stop.  Then, WHAM!  He fell flat on his face, I cried and walked away.  Now we were even for the casino incident.
  12. When in high school we were in the play Bye Bye Birdie together.  His friends decided it would be cute for the girl playing opposite to him (he was Hugo Peabody) to give him a real kiss on the lips.  He was so shocked and embarrassed.   His naivety was charming.
  13. After Abby was born, Bob announced he wanted to start going to church and started reading the bible.  My heart soared.  We read to each other many nights and then discuss what we read.  I love the growth in the Lord we share.
  14. When I was sick this past year and had to go for many tests, he never batted an eye at the cost or taking time off to help with the kids.  He is a rock and a security for our family.
    Homecoming 1994
    Atlantic City 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Easy (and Delicious) Jambalaya

All morning Emily kept asking if she could show something to her friends at school and I assumed she meant a toy or picture.  I later found that she had a whole show planned for her preschool class.

As I entered the preschool building, Emily’s teacher laughed, telling me that Emily was certainly the "singing queen" today.
I smiled and asked, "ABBA?"   

The teacher asked if Emily watches Mamma Mia because she was teaching the entire class how to sing Dancing Queen today.  I explained that her favorite Pandora channel is ABBA, and Dancing Queen is her favorite song along with many other 70’s and 80’s hits such as Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Tell Me Lies (which she confidently belts out as "Tell me EYES, tell me sweet little EYES." )

I can only imagine Emily teaching the other four year old children to sing the popular ABBA song.  I hope her eagerness to teach and share with them, created an eagerness to learn and play along as well.  Emily has such energy with everything she does and I love to watch her dance and sing with the intensity of a professional performer. While a good Lincoln Brewster or Mercy Me song would have been better suited for the Christian preschool class, the joy she shared was God given none the less and her eagerness to share His joy in song and movement will always make me smile.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!  Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:1-2)

Easy (and Delicious) Jambalaya

1 Green Pepper
1 Onion
5 Cloves of Garlic
2 28oz Cans of Diced Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Chili Pepper Sauce
Cajun Seasoning Blend
1Tb Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1 Tb Chopped Fresh Parsley
1lb of Chopped Smoked Sausage
1lb of Peeled and Deveined Shrimp*
Cooked Rice

  1. Dice green pepper, onion, garlic and add to pot with tomatoes. 
  2. Add seasonings (salt, pepper, chili pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning and adobo to taste)
  3. Add cilantro, parsley and sausage and mix all ingredients together.
  4. Simmer all ingredients until veggies are tender and flavors married, adjusting seasonings as needed.  (approx 45min – 1hr)
  5. Add the shrimp and cook until pink through.
  6. Serve over rice and enjoy!

Crock Pot Variation:
This recipe can easily be prepared in the crock pot as well.  Add veggies, seasonings and sausage to crock pot and cook on low for 6-8hrs or high 4-5 hrs.  Add shrimp at the last hour and cook until pink through.

*If you are not a shrimp fan, you can also substitute chicken, cooking prior to adding.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mango, Ginger, Avocado Salsa

1 Mango
1 Avocado (firmer then used for guacamole, but not too firm)
1 Shallot
Fresh Ginger ( I LOVE Ginger so I might use more than the average person.  Grate as much or as little as your taste desires in my opinion)
½ Red Pepper
1 Tsp Agave Nectar
Salt to taste

Chop mango, avocado, shallot and red pepper.  Grate in desired amount of ginger and add agave nectar and salt.  Mix together and enjoy with corn tortilla chips, yum!

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.  (Isaiah 40:8)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pumpkin and Coconut Muffins - Gluten Free

Grandpa, AKA Chick of Louise and Chick, has been moved to rehab and out of the hospital.  Still not home, but one step closer.  Now that he is no longer in the hospital, I will be taking Emily to visit and possibly brighten his day a bit with her antics.  I also plan to check on Grandma's eating and prepare some dinners for her while I am there for a couple of nights.  And I admittedly am really hoping there is a good movie from the 1930's or 40's that she and I can watch at night.  Burt Lancaster in the starring role, perhaps?  So....Over the mountains and through the turnpike to Grandmother's house Emily and I go!

John 8:12 "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Pumpkin and Coconut Muffins - Gluten Free

Combine and blend:
2.5 Cups Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 ½ tsp Salt
6 Eggs

Add to above mixture:
1 Cup Coconut Oil
1.5 Cup Pumpkin
1.5 Cups Water
1 Cup Buckwheat Flour
1 Cup Sorghum Flour
1 Cup Coconut Flour
2 tsp Baking Soda

Place batter into muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30min or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean.  

Recipe Yields 24-30 Muffins

John 8:12 "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Louise and Chick - A Love Story

Louise and Chick have been married 65 years.  For six and a half decades, over half a century, through several wars, births, and many deaths of friends and loved ones they have shared their life and love together.  At the ages of 95 and 87 they still live together in their home, supporting each other.  Louise continues to cook for and cleans up after Chick, while he still sings to and entertains her.   They kiss each other good night and good morning and often share an embrace throughout the day.  This week Chick was taken to the hospital for severely elevated blood sugar (he is diabetic) and at 95 he is fearful he will not return home to his love alive again.  Each day Louise diligently visits him at the hospital, making sure he eats and is comfortable as he can be.   She too is afraid that he may never come home to the place they built together decades ago.  While thoughts of making herself sick so she can be with him in the hospital have crossed her mind, common sense tells her that she can better care for him with the strength of a healthy woman.  Sleepless nights and long, quiet days have however killed her appetite and she too is becoming frail.

Each time Louise enters the hospital room, Chick lights up and cannot help but smile brightly, just as he did the first time he saw her walk into the dance almost seven decades ago.  Louise quickly rushes over to give him a hug and kiss the best she can while he is in the hospital bed, IVs attached to his arm.  The look of concern washes over her face as she asks how he is feeling, and though he cannot hear her he knows what she is asking by her face and lets her know he is well but desperate to go home.  

“How long do I have to be here?  Why can’t I go home?  Will I ever make it home alive?” he inquires with frustration and fear evident in his voice.  

Louise laughs and says. “Of course you will!” and goes about straightening his blankets and readying him for lunch.   

For hours she sits by his side, watching him sleep and smiling with love when he wakes, singing to her or just giving her hand a little squeeze.

Louise and Chick continue to wait for what is yet to come and as he grows in strength their hope of a healthy homecoming grows.  They are fully aware though, that it is not in their hands and that God can call you home at anytime.  They are grateful for all the years that they have had together on this Earth, regardless of what tomorrow or even the next hour may bring.

A love like Louise and Chick’s is so amazing, true and awe inspiring.  The love they share so openly is a true testament to the love of God.  While there is much sadness and uncertainty in their lives right now, it is only because of the blessing they have been given and have shared in each other.   We all strive to find the perfect partner to travel this Earthly life with and through the grace of God, Louise and Chick have found that match.  Without the love of Christ, there could be no love story like Louise and Chick.  Without the love of Christ, there could be no love at all.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 
(1 John 4:8)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Easy Slow Cooker Peanut Chicken

The below recipe is one I adapted from an old Betty Crocker slow cooker recipe book I bought at a yard sale years ago.  The original recipe is here.    I prefer to not use bone in chicken in the slow cooker because I have found that the process will loosen some smaller bones.  With small children, I am weary of little bones in my dishes.  Our adaptations also call for more ginger, peanut butter and salsa and with these changes the kids LOVE this meal.  If the kids love it and it is healthy, we love it too.

2lbs Chicken Breast or Thighs (Skin and Bone Removed) *
1 Cup Salsa
1/3 Cup Peanut Butter
1 Tb Fresh Grated Ginger
2 Tb Lime Juice (About 2 Limes worth)
1 Tb Soy Sauce (I use Gluten Free)
½ Cup Chopped Peanuts
¼ Cup Fresh Chopped Cilantro

Combine all ingredients except for peanuts and cilantro in crock pot and cook on low for 8-9hrs or high for 4-5 hrs.  Remove from pot put on platter, pour any extra sauce over chicken and top with peanuts and fresh cilantro.  Serve with rice or rice pilaf. 

*Chicken breasts, though less fatty, do soak up most of the sauce so if you prefer the chicken breast I recommend increasing the amount other ingredients used in the sauce. 

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—(1Peter 2:2)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chicken Stew (Puerto Rican Style)

The below recipe was one I learned this summer from my Aunt Rosalia while cooking for my sister's pre-wedding picnic.  It is one of the traditional family "non-recipes" where you put some of this and some of that, but never a measurement to be heard.  I have tried to give accurate measurements for ingredients to the best of my ability, but it is such a forgiving and simple recipe (yet full of deep flavor) that a little more or less of anything would be well received and adapted. 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. - (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Chicken Stew (Puerto Rican Style)

5-6lbs Chicken Legs or Thighs
Olive Oil
1 Spanish or Yellow Onion
1 Green Pepper
4-6 Potatoes
4-6 Cloves of Garlic
1 Bunch of Fresh Cilantro
Adobo w/Pepper Seasoning
1 28oz Can Diced Tomatoes
1 28oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
3-4 oz of Spanish Olives
Italian Blend Seasonings
1 Bay Leaf

Heat olive oil in caldero or large stock pot.  Remove skin from chicken legs or thighs and salt, pepper and adobo each side.  Place chicken in pot.  Chop onion, pepper, potatoes and place in pot with chicken.  Add garlic cloves whole along with tomatoes, 1 can of water, olives, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning blend, bay leaf and chopped cilantro.  Remove chicken once cooked through and remove meat from the bone, replacing in pot.   Simmer together until potatoes are tender and flavors married, adding seasonings as needed.  The stew goes well with rice, arroz con gandules, or tostones on the side.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Emily and the Lions

“Mom, do you know what to do if a lion is coming toward you?”  Emily quizzed me.

I honestly did not have a clear answer, since this is a situation I had never thought myself to be at risk for, 
 and I was very curious what Emily’s answer would be.  “No, what do you do?” I replied.

“You might think you should run, but that would be horrible because they will chase you. What you should do is stand perfectly still and just PRAY!”  She answered with complete confidence. 

Often we see the lion approaching us, the even steady pace closing in quickly.  While our lion might actually be a temptation, justification or an addiction to sin, it can be equally frightening.  Often we want to run, to hide, but inevitably the lion of sin will knock us to the ground and tear us apart, leaving very few remains for the buzzards swarming overhead.  We cannot out run our sins and temptations, especially on our own.  Alone, we are weak and vulnerable and the evil one feeds on that and sends the lions to us in our weakness.   

I have faced many lions, most recently one related to my health.  I wanted to cure what ailed me, to find a concrete answer.  I screamed out that it wasn’t fair, I just want someone to fix my body so it functioned normally again.  I was vomiting almost every time I ate followed by hours of pain and nausea that left me no option but to stay on the couch.  I stubbornly ignored my bible and would let other thoughts take over before I could pray.  I was terrified that I would never be well again, that I could never fix what was wrong.  There is a common word in most of the previous sentences, “I”.  I am never going to tackle or out run a lion, especially alone.  Finally I fell to my knees and told God that I am His and His to fix.  I crumbled and I told him I will wait as long as He felt it would need to take, but I KNEW He would get rid of the lion that frightened me and I PRAYED.  

What is the best defense against our lions and ourselves?  PRAY.  Emily had the answer quite clear and concise.  Don’t run for you cannot outrun the lion.  Just stop and stand perfectly still and PRAY.  However, if you are faced with a REAL living lion while on safari, please do not rely entirely on the advice of my four year old daughter for survival.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)